Thursday, January 14, 2021

Freight Stops: Ocean Shore Maintenance Yard

The existence of the Ocean Shore Railway in Santa Cruz County was in hindsight such a fleeting thing that it is often forgotten how important the project once was to the county. From anticipated electrification of the entire system to a substantial pier at the Main Beach to a massive viaduct over the Southern Pacific Railroad's yards to extensions of the route north to San Francisco and south to Fresno and beyond, the company had a grand vision and aspirations to something great. And while all of those dreams vanished in the fires of the 1906 Earthquake and the financial crises that followed, the railroad did successfully build some infrastructure in the county. The heart of that infrastructure was the company's maintenance yard on the West Side of Santa Cruz.

The Ocean Shore Railroad's maintenance yard near Garfield Park with a locomotive in the engine house at right and the remains of Ocean Shore #2 in the center with its tender at left in front of a passenger car, ca 1910. [University of California, Santa Cruz, Legacy Digital Collections – colorized using DeOldify]

Permission to construct the yard was granted by the city in June 1905 and building began shortly after. The completed yard encompassed several blocks within David Gharkey's old tract between Lighthouse Avenue to the east, Gharkey Street to the north, Centennial Street to the west, and Oregon Street to the south. Through this section, the Ocean Shore's track curved gently southwest from its bluff-top passenger shelter. From just south of Gharkey Street, the track split, with double-track running all the way to Garfield Avenue. A crossover was located near the junction of Delaware Avenue and Colombia Street, although the double-track continued to Garfield, where it stopped abruptly. Presumably, this was the start of the long double-track that was intended to continue up the coast to San Francisco, but only this short section was ever built along the Southern Division. Where the double-track broke off, a second track also detached to form the southern wye, which stretched south to Oregon Street. The wye allowed the railroad's locomotives to turn around without the need of a turntable, which was not available along the Southern Division. The other wye on the Southern Division was located north of Davenport at Folger beside Scott Creek.

Only complete layout map of the Ocean Shore Railway's yard in the Gharkey Tract from microfilm, showing curve angles, spurs, the wye, and support structures, ca 1907. [California State Library]

In addition to the double-track and wye, the maintenance yard had four other spurs throughout the area. The northern most of these, measuring 415 feet in length, broke off from the wye track and crossed Santa Cruz Street where it paralleled Laguna Street before stopping at Monterey Street. Another 450-foot-long spur broke off from the main line near the same place but turned west to stop at Liberty Street. A structure near the top of these spurs sat alongside Laguna but no purpose for this building is described on the only available map of the area.

The final two spurs more clearly related to the engine house and maintenance yard, which was located on the north side of Monterey Street midway between Centennial and Liberty Streets. The spurs flanked the buildings with a 466-foot-long spur snaking over them to the north and a straight 337-foot-long spur cutting through the engine house, with both ending at or in Centennial Street. The engine house was capable of housing two locomotives but no additional rolling stock, and no other covered areas were provided in the yard. Three tanks capable of holding 310,000 gallons of water stood beside the engine house to refuel locomotives. Two maintenance shops in an L shape were connected to the engine house. Most of these features can be seen in the photograph at the top of this page, with a tender and car parked on the longer spur and a locomotive in the engine house.

The yard limits for the Ocean Shore's Santa Cruz operations spanned from the end of track above the Southern Pacific yard at West Cliff Drive to the city limits at Moore Creek and the San Vicente Lumber Company's millpond (Antonelli Pond). Within this area were three stations—Santa Cruz, Garfield Ave. and Rapetti—the middle of which was composed entirely of a small 8' x 10' wood frame passenger shelter located at the southwest corner of Garfield (Woodrow) and Delaware Avenues. This structure served as a transfer point with the Union Traction Company's electric streetcar line between Vue de l'Eau and the rest of its network and, as such, was a regularly scheduled stop. No photographs of the shelter exist, unfortunately.

Subdivision map of "Marx's Property" within the Gharkey Tract, showing details of the Ocean Shore Railroad's freight yard, October 13, 1913. [California State Library]

The maintenance yard was linked directly to the operations of the Ocean Shore Railway and may not have survived much into the Ocean Shore Railroad's existence after 1911. The San Vicente Lumber Company, which had its mill on Shore Investment Company (an Ocean Shore subsidiary) land at Rapetti Ranch beside Antonelli Pond is noted on a Sanborn map in 1917 as having a long car shed and a separate car shop. These were not present in 1911. It is possible that these were or became the new maintenance facilities for the Ocean Shore Railroad in the mid-1910s, especially since the railroad only operated two locomotives at a time on the Southern Division during this time. The Rapetti property certainly served as the maintenance yard after October 1920, when the railroad sold its southern rolling stock to the lumber company and abandoned any remaining stations and shelters in Santa Cruz County. If the original maintenance yard survived until the end of the railroad's existence, it was decommissioned at some point in late 1920 or early 1921. Most of the property remained undeveloped until after World War II, when it was subdivided into housing parcels.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:

36.9580N, 122.0315W

The location of the company's shops were at 404 Centennial Street, which today is occupied by a private home. No visible trace of the Ocean Shore's maintenance yard survives but there are relics that can be found on property lines. Indeed, the entire route of Delaware Avenue between Columbia and Santa Cruz Streets is due to the Ocean Shore's alignment and its subsequent conversion to a public road in the 1940s. The properties that most obviously still reflect the former Ocean Shore right-of-way through this area are 224 Gharkey Street, 403 Laguna Street, 302 Monterey Street, and 301-303 Santa Cruz Street, although the orientations of some structures in the area may also reflect the railroad's original alignment.

Citations & Credits:

  • Bender, Henry E., Jr. "Ocean Shore Railroad." December 2017.
  • Hamman, Rick. California Central Coast Railways. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2007.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Coast. Santa Cruz, CA: Zayante Publishing, forthcoming.

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